By Rick Schuman, VP, Public Sector Americas (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This is the eighth edition of a weekly review of changes in road traffic demand in the United States from the COVID-19 virus spread and our collective response. We will endeavor to publish this Synopsis every Monday for the foreseeable future, providing results through Friday of the previous week. If interested in detailed information with daily updates, we have introduced the INRIX Traffic Trends.
- Travel continued to accelerate the rate of rebound, across all states, regions and vehicle types
- Nationwide personal travel at levels last seen on Monday, March 23rd
- Nationally, when compared to typical travel, Week 8 (Saturday, May 2 – Friday, May 8) saw:
- Personal travel down 29% vs. 36% in Week 7, increasing daily since April 15th
- Long haul truck travel down 7.6% vs. 9.1% in Week 7
- Local fleets in Metro Areas down 9% vs. 16% in Week 7
- Travel decline leaders in Week 8:
- Statewide Personal Travel: Hawaii, down 53% vs. 55% Week 7 (New Jersey now 2nd at 47%)
- Statewide Long Haul Truck Travel: Michigan, down 32% vs. 35% Week 7
- Metro Area Personal Travel: New York City, down 50% vs. 57% Week 7
Our incoming data sources (The ‘INRIX Fleet’) provides anonymous speed/location reporting to us in real-time and generates over 100 million trips, traveling over 1 billion total miles per day across the US. The INRIX Fleet provides information about all roads in the national network, not just major roads and spans the full range of vehicle types: consumer vehicles, local fleets, long haul trucks.
We have re-purposed our INRIX Trips metadata – with only a 48-hour lag – to generate relevant summary level information about traffic demand. In this extraordinary time, we hope that this information will be useful to policy makers and the public. We look forward to the week, hopefully soon, when we can report on congestion and volume growth – as this will be a sure sign of recovery.
It has been eight weeks since travel began its noticeable decline nationwide. Figure 1 shows the relative change in passenger vehicle travel from March 1, relative to the comparable day of the week during the control week of February 22 – 28, 2020. Figure 1 also includes a weekly rolling average. Passenger travel continued to trend upwards, down 29% weekly on Friday, May 8th, compared to 36% the previous Friday and 48% on April 9th the low point to date. The rolling average was last at 29% on Monday, March 23th, more than six weeks ago and just ten days into the initial travel decline. The daily figure for Thursday, May 7th was 74%, a figure last seen on Thursday, March 19th.
State Level Passenger Travel increased in every state compared to last week, for the third week in a row, with all states increased at least 2%. Nebraska and Hawaii had the lowest increase, 2% each. Three states increased more than 10%, Alabama (11%), Maine (10%) and Tennessee (10%). 40 states in total increased 5% or more this week. Figure 2 shows each state’s weekly rolling average on May 8th in blue, last week’s (May 1st) in orange, and the maximum drop at any point from March 1st in gray.
All states have recovered at least 10% from their maximum weekly rolling average reduction, with 29 states recovering 20% or more. Montana has had the largest recovery from its maximum reduction of 31%, from 40% to 9%. Wyoming is the closest to reaching control week travel, down 7% the of end Week 8.
Nationwide Long Haul Truck travel increased in Week 8, down 7.6%, compared to 9.1% last week. 42 states had increased truck travel. 45 states truck travel increased or decreased less than 4%, 39 of these increased and 6 decreased. Three states increased more than 4%, Rhode Island (7%), Nevada (5%), and New Hampshire (5%). Two states decreased more than 4%, Alaska (9%) and Maine (6%).
Through Week 8, two states are at their maximum reduction in truck travel, New Mexico (15%) and Maine (10%). 11 states have overall reductions in truck travel exceeding 10%, compared to 15 states last week, still led by Michigan (32%) and Texas (20%). 14 states, now led by Wyoming, have increased truck travel compared to the control week, up from 11 states last week.
Metropolitan Area personal travel continued to increase overall this week, with all 98 metropolitan areas tracked in this Synopsis increasing week over week, for the third consecutive week. Every area increased at least 2% week over week, and seven areas increased more than 10%.
Though the gaps are narrowing, all areas still have declines in personal travel of over 10% compared to the control week (last week all had declines in excess of 25%). No areas now have declines over 50% (vs. eight last week), 14 areas have declines in the 40%’s (vs. 24 last week), 39 area have declines in the 30%’s (vs. 53 last week), 40 areas have declines in the 20%’s (vs. 13 last week), and 5 areas now have declines in the 10%’s (vs. none last week).
Personal travel has increased 12% or more from peak reduction for all 98 metropolitan areas, with 40 areas more than 20% above their peak reduction level. Washington, DC has the least ‘improvement’ at 12% (vs. 7% last week).
- Most Overall Reduction in Personal Travel Compared in Week 8 Compared to the Control Week:
- New York (49%), San Francisco (49%), Orlando (47%), Miami (47%), Washington, DC (46%)
- Least Overall Reduction in Personal Travel Compared in Week 8 Compared to the Control Week:
- Mobile (11%), Corpus Christi (16%), Pensacola (19%), Boise (20%), Greenville (20%)
- Largest Increases in Travel in Week 8 as Compared to Week 7:
- Mobile (20%), Pensacola (14%), Knoxville (13%), Corpus Christi (12%), Daytona Beach (11%)
- Largest Increases from Peak Reduction (% is Increase from Peak Reduction to Week 8):
- Mobile (36%), Corpus Christi (33%), Pensacola (29%), McAllen (28%), Colorado Springs (28%)
Local fleet traffic increased in Week 8 overall, with 95 of the 98 areas contributing to the increase. Local fleet traffic tends to be more volatile week to week in metropolitan areas, however eleven areas increased more than 10% week over week, concentrated in the northeast with New York City leading the increases at 19%.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, the average daily national vehicle miles traveled in May 2019 was 14.8% higher than the daily average in February 2019. Thus, if all else was equal, one would expect roughly a 15% increase in travel the first week in May as compared to the last week in February due to seasonal traffic variations. The 31% reduction in nationwide personal travel actually understates the true change in expected travel. In a ‘typical’ year, indices computed in this Synopsis would be expected to naturally rise at/near 15% as our method is not adjusting for seasonal variation.
To simplify, for every 69 miles traveled in the US last week, we could have expected 115 miles if not for the virus. Thus, the 31% reduction translates into a roughly 40% reduction, seasonally adjusted. This calculation is included for illustrative purposes and to remind readers that, depending upon when the indices shown in this Synopsis return to ‘normal’ compared to the Control Week, they may or may not indicate full recovery on a seasonally adjusted basis.
 Given the day of week pattern of travel demand, we compare a given day and area to the same day/area in a previous week, and we are using the week commencing Saturday, February 22, 2020 as our ‘control week’
 Metadata used is total trip distance of all INRIX Trips originating in the country/state/region each day
 INRIX has established 98 metropolitan area geographies for internal purposes; these are the areas used in this analysis